Matthew Angelo Harrison - Bated Breath
Matthew Angelo Harrison (b. 1989) was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He studied at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, graduating there in 2012. His works have been shown in numerous group and solo exhibitions, including at the Broad Art Museum (East Lansing, MI, USA), the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, the Museum of Contem-porary Art Detroit (MOCAD), and most recently at the Kunsthalle Basel. Harrison is a sculptor and works in particular with African artifacts that derive from the cultures of the Bambara, Dogon, Makonde, Senufo, and other ethnic groups. The artist buys these objects online from European dealers. Harrison, moreover, uses 3D machine technology and materials from labors unions, such as posters from union strikes. In doing so, he thematically links his origin as an African American from the “Motor City” Detroit with the colonial legacy of US society.
Bated Breath, 2021, wood sculpture, polyure-thane resin, anodized aluminum, acrylic, 60 × 29 × 29 cm (without pedestal)
The sculpture Bated Breath consists of a wooden mask cast in a block of polyurethane, set on an aluminum pedestal. The enclosed oxygen bubbles have the appear-ance of air escaping the mouth of the African artifact like breath. The mask, its anonymous authorship, its dubious origins in the European online secondary market, and the culturally uprooted use of a contemporary, techie pedestal as well as the casting in the absorbent synthetic resin confront us with a colonial history that raises questions: Why hasn’t the author-ship of the mask been handed down? Where does the responsibility ultimately lie for the predominantly Western historiography that disregards authorship? What does this historical uprooting have to do with today’s racial structures? How effective and complex is the leg-acy of colonialism in the twenty-first century? Harrison’s sculpture combines contradictions that can leave the viewer feeling uneasy, but it also allows for an entirely new outlook, narrative, and authorship.